Bomb squadby Paul Thomas
Three cheers for the year’s top flops.
Flop of the Year: Benji Marshall’s much-hyped foray into rugby union. It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Marshall’s relocation to this side of the Tasman was as much about assessing the commercial climate as having a serious crack at the other code. It’s certainly fair to say brand Benji had more impact on the Auckland celebrity endorsement market than the footballer had on the 15-a-side game.
The Yogi Berra Déjà Vu All Over Again Award (so-named for the legendary baseball manager famed for declarations that mangled logic and language but somehow made sense, such as “I really didn’t say everything I said”): Jesse Ryder. Big Jesse has two immense talents – for striking a cricket ball and for blowing last chances in the apparently well-founded belief that he’ll never outstay his welcome in the last chance saloon. He appears to be a man who has never been presented with an opportunity he wasn’t tempted to spurn.
Fall From Grace of the Year: Lou Vincent. The former Black Cap’s admission of match- and spot-fixing in several countries was, among other things, a kick in the guts for the New Zealand cricket community, which had taken for granted that our players were squeaky clean and corruption was something that happens in faraway places.
The Winston Peters Award for Making Outlandish Statements that the Media Insists on Taking Seriously: Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu. The former Samoan rugby international, a serial offender against Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies, pushed an already expansive envelope with this effort: “If Hitler had an interest in rugby and fronted the money, told them to come tour Nazi Germany, the All Blacks would.” He was riffing on the fact that the All Blacks have never played in Samoa, an anomaly for which there are various explanations, some of which don’t show the New Zealand Rugby Union in a particularly flattering light but nevertheless fall short of exposing it as an organisation ever ready to sell its soul to the devil.
The Unconscious Irony Award: Goes to defenders of Uruguayan footballer Luis Suárez, who was thrown out of the FIFA World Cup for biting an opponent, his third such offence in four years. Uruguayan coach Óscar Tabárez quit FIFA’s strategic committee in protest at the ban, declaring that those who imposed it “have values that are different from those that I believe I have”. The biter’s granny complained he’d been “treated like a dog”, which suggests she believes we shouldn’t make a fuss when human beings do what we put dogs to sleep for doing.
The Premature Extrapolation Award: Goes to all those who, in the wake of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes’s death at the crease, expressed the sentiment that “things will never be the same again” or some variation thereof. Within two weeks the Australian and Indian teams were sledging and bouncing each other, batsmen were getting hit on the helmet and Australian captain Michael Clarke, who’d appeared at risk of buckling under the twin strains of personal grief and carrying out the role of official mourner in chief, was racking up another test century. Meanwhile Sean Abbott, the bowler who delivered the fatal delivery and whose psychological and emotional state had concerned amateur psychoanalysts and grief counsellors throughout the cricket world, was recording career-best figures in an interstate game at the ground where Hughes died.
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